Holly Merta discovered her passion for advancing scientific knowledge and answering questions no one has answered before while in undergrad at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. It wasn’t until she started conducting exciting research on small worms called Caenorhabditis elegans in Dr. Alex Simmons’ lab that she decided to pursue a career in science, although she was initially planning on becoming a medical doctor. As a graduate student at Yale University, Holly continues to push scientific boundaries in her investigation of nuclear envelope reformation. Similar to how a cell is surrounded by a membrane that separates it from the outside environment, nucleus is also surrounded by a membrane called the nuclear envelope that separates the important genetic material housed in the nucleus from the rest of the cell’s components. As a cell divides, the nuclear envelope has to break apart so the DNA can be divided between the two new cells. The nuclear envelope then has to reform once cell division is complete. However, the process of how the nuclear envelope reforms after cell division is not completely understood. This is an important question to answer so we can better understand diseases in which cell division is abnormal, like cancer. Holly is interested in investigating the timing of nuclear envelope reformation and the players involved.
One of Holly’s favorite parts about being a scientist is the flexible and self-directed lifestyle. She says she enjoys that she can choose what she wants to study and she can set her own schedule. Additionally, Holly loves talking to the scientists that she works with who, like her, are very curious and invested about what they are working on. When not doing bench science, Holly really enjoys music, singing, playing the piano, and writing music. She takes the skills she develops when writing music and uses them to help her to write her scientific papers so they also flow and are interesting.
Together, Holly’s experiences have driven her desire to become a teaching professor at a university. Her high school teachers at Lamar Consolidated High School and her professors at the University of St. Thomas were passionate about helping their students achieve their career goals and to develop their skills to contribute to society, which is exactly what Holly wants to do! She recommends that even if you may not know what you want to do as a career at first, to pick a path, stick with it, work hard, and do your best in that path. If you want to switch paths then you will have developed a strong work ethic and many skills that can be used in a variety of fields.
Thanks to Holly for all of her great work with Open Labs and for giving us an insight into her pathway to science! If you have any questions for Holly or want to learn more about her work, please post a comment below or send us an email!